Doing the Donkey work. HTS Drostdy's Boland Craven Week lock Bron-Lee Mouries (in red jersey)
makes the hard yards against Uitenhage side Die Brandwag, who beat them 19-10 at the
Steinhoff Maties Day at Coetzenburg. (photo courtesy of Brakkies Sport Fotos)
If it wasn’t for the successful campaigns of a handful of teams dotted around this very large province, 2016 would be a year most local schools rugby supporters would prefer to forget.
And it is the most important statistics that are unfortunately also the most unsettling.
The Craven Week side failed to win a match up at Kearsney. Despite losing the first game 20-41 to their neighbours, eventual champions Western Province, they emerged with much credit. They then left things until too late against Eastern Province, to whom they went down 33-37, and the less said about their 26-64 drubbing at the hands of Border on the final day, the better.
On the domestic front, the province’s only really large school, HTS Drostdy from Worcester, returned a satisfactory, if unspectacular 11-7 win ratio.
What this statistic doesn’t tell one is that the appointment of a new young coach and a noticeable determination to rely on players acquired at the end of primary school – rather than continuing with the lazy (and highly unpopular) system of stealing quality material from neighbouring schools – has already worked wonders.
That the school only produced four Craven Week representatives in right wing Bradley van Turha, utlility back Bertho le Roux, lock Albert Liebenberg and reserve forward Bron-Lee Mouries and not a single Academy Week cap is hard to understand, especially given the inside chatter about the selectors experiencing a lack of good players of colour from which to choose.
Three very skilled backs – scrumhalf Romeo Eksteen, flyhalf Dimitri Moffat and outside centre Timothy Allies – would most definitely done as good a job, if not a better one, had they been given the chance. Whatever the reasons for their omission, it’s a bit late to fret about it now.
After a close-fought 17-10 win over Argentinians Champagnat, the Donkeys hit the wall at Paarl Gym, losing 0-52. They went on to lose the first game at their North-South festival 12-14 to Marais Viljoen, but thumped Transvalia 36-12 and Potch Volkies 44-0 to end strongly.
Memories of home defeats to Oakdale and Outeniqua and an unconvincing trials day victory over Hermanus (36-30) were soon wiped away by successes against Jim Fouché (34-18) and highly-rated Helpmekaar (26-24) in Oudtshoorn and a 13-8 Classic Clash win over Worcester Gym.
Their performance away to Bishops drew much favourable comment, despite their losing 23-31 and a heartening nice five-match winning streak, which included a 24-22 triumph against Noord-Kaap, was only mildly spoiled by defeats against Paarl Boys’ High (15-52) and Die Brandwag (10-19).
While the forwards might not have been as big as some of their predecessors, despite their doing the hard work efficiently and without complaint, it was the lovely running of the small but enormously talented backline that defined this side.
The platform provided by Eksteen and Moffat allowed the outside backs, particularly Allies and prolific try-scorer van Turha, who ran up eighteen five-pointers in next to no time before going inexplicably off the boil, to captivate the crowds.
Coaches Renier de Villiers and Jorrie Jordaan deserve much of the credit, but one must not discount the considerable input and positive influence of headmaster Arthur Underhay and PRO Gerbrand du Preez.
Hopefully the Donkeys will enjoy more local exposure in coming seasons, although one can imagine prospective opponents being cowed by their Under 16 side, thirteen of whom were in the Boland side that undid Western Province at the Grant Khomo Week.
Of the second-tier schools by far the most successful was Swartland, their 16-4 record being rendered all the more impressive when one considers that they lost three of their first five matches (10-22 to Oudtshoorn, 11-15 to Ligbron Academy and 9-17 to Worcester Gym). From there on they were a team on a mission, sweeping all before them, the only other defeat (7-10 vs Gwent College) being conceded by a side missing seven regulars away on provincial duty.
Four players – centre Anton du Toit, No. 8 Charlie Gerber, hooker Niel Burger and reserve lock Jan-Ernst Terblanche – did duty at the Craven Week while lock Wihan Burger, prop Dewald Very and reserve scrumhalf Keagan Johannes received Academy Week call-ups.
Some results, such as the 45-7 thrashing of Hermanus, a come-from-behind 46-12 victory over Strand and a 40-3 local derby win against Schoonspruit, were breathtaking, but there were a few nailbiters (39-36 vs Charlie Hofmeyr, 24-17 vs Augsburg Gym and 33-24 vs Hugenote in Wellington).
Du Toit’s superb left foot contributed no fewer than 190 points. The third of the famous Du Toit brothers also scored twelve tries, a total matched only by Gerber, while the best of the rest was wing Breyten Henkeman with nine touchdowns.
One can only wonder what would have happened, had they and Drostdy been able to put their long-standing differences aside and played each other.
Worcester Gym (10-1-9) only yielded two Boland players, Craven Week captain and no. 8 Charl Schoeman and Academy Week left wing Lukhanyo Magele.
For the Bosvarke it was a funny old season, which included a 55-0 win over Jeugland and a 10-50 defeat to Pietersburg two days apart !
The highlights were wins over powerful Brackenfell (32-23), Swartland (17-9) and Hugenote (36-32), all at home, while no-one can explain the defeats on visits to WP third-tier side Parel Vallei (8-26) and humble Punt (3-7).
Polished flyhalf Curtley Deelman contributed 109 points, while the leading try-scorers were Magele and centre Julian Lodewyk, who notched ten apiece.
Apart from having coach Lance Sendin appointed SA Schools coach, Hugenote (7-1-10) never got out of low gear.
Props Cohen and Kayden Kiewit and tearaway flank Michael Goodall made the Craven Week cut, while Wernich Harms was on the reserve bench for the Academy Week team.
Narrow defeats to Tygerberg (18-26), Nico Malan (15-16) and Oudtshoorn (10-16) were followed by a 60-15 thrashing at the hands of a well-drilled Jeppe team, the speed and guile of Goodall, who scored all three of their tries in this game, probably being the outstanding individual performance of the season.
The Blackies seem to have taken over Boland Landbou’s mantle of the almost-but-not-quite side with narrow reversals against Worcester Gym (32-36), Swartland (24-33), DF Malan (26-29) and Brackenfell (26-32), the last two being all the more galling as they squandered comfortable leads in the last ten minutes.
However, they were on the right side of cliffhangers against Hermanus (21-19), Montagu (22-17), Bellville (10-9) and Charlie Hofmeyr (10-9)
Flyhalf Renaldo Fransman’s 96 points and Goodall’s fifteen tries were the only bright spots on a very ordinary scorers list.
The real star performers of the season were all smaller schools. Vredendal (15-3), Overberg (11-1-3), Groenberg (8-2), Paulus Joubert (11-3), Augsburg (13-1-4) and Montagu (10-1-4).
Vredendal never fail to punch above their weight and didn’t disappoint this time although they only reserve hooker Henry Hagen (Craven Week) and flank Johann van der Merwe (Academy Week) gained higher honours.
The early losses to Strand (7-37) and Montagu (15-19) at Oakdale would, in all probability, not have yielded the same results, had they been played in the middle of the campaign and the 3-6 setrback against English side St George’s of Harpenden came just two days after a gruelling derby win (35-12) against the local secondary school.
Impressive victories were recorded in the Boland domestic games against Clanwilliam Secondary (71-0 and 83-0), while the ones that really mattered were the two Calvinia derby triumphs (20-12 and 14-9) and the intense 11-10 win over Augsburg Gym.
Pivot Rossouw Jordaan punished the opposition to the tune of 152 points and wing/full-back JB Geldenhuys taunted them with fourteen tries.
Always a tough nut to crack, Overberg (15-11-1-3) seem to have deserved more than their two Academy Week players, prop Christoff Walker and centre Bradley Marthinus.
The Ovies shone at the Oakdale Festival, seeing off Dirkie Uys (16-10) before raising several sets of eyebrows with emphatic successes against Upington (26-5) and Muir (25-10).
An inexplicable 0-14 loss to New Orleans at the Boland Trials was quickly forgotten as a string of wins against Charlie Hofmeyr (20-10), Labori (50-9) and local rivals Bredasdorp (19-9), Swellendam (21-0), Montagu (13-7) and Robertson (27-21) followed.
It was only the last three matches which saw the boys in black wobble as they drew with Stellenbosch (30-30), lost to Hermanus (18-25) and were pipped 29-27 by Augsburg Gym.
Junior Spanellis (93) and Marthinus (77) shared the kicking duties, but a somewhat disappointing 49 tries was all the squad could muster.
Groenberg, the boys from Apple Central (Grabouw) (8-2) might not have played many games, but their spirited attacking style, relentlessly fuelled by the eleven tries and siege-gun left foot of Chantin Wildschut (now Jonas) (147 points) meant that they were always in with a shout.
Chosen for the Academy Week team, Wildschut was called up to Craven Week squad for the EP match and was rewarded with a fine try.
Hopefully, greater things can be expected in future from Anton Esau’s charges.
Guided by another provincial coach, Athol Ontong, Paarl’s Paulus Joubert (11-3), put defeats at TSRF 2016 against Langenhoven High (5-13) and Canada’s Shawnigan Lahe (26-53) behind them to win all but one of the rest of their games.
The fact that left wing Shane King (8) was their leading try-scorer illustrates that this was very much a team who played for each other and reaped their just rewards accordingly.
It was a year of transition for Augsburg Gym (13-1-4) as a lot of youngsters were blooded, but that didn’t stop them from putting their feet on the gas to demolish local league opponents Vredendal Secondary (79-6) and Cederberg Academy (81-5).
Apart from a surprise reversal against Stonybrooke of England (6-26) with a slightly weakened side, they only lost to Charlie Hofmeyr (20-30), Swartland (17-24) and Vredendal (10-11).
Sixteen points against Overberg in the final match took flyhalf JP Viviers to the 200-point mark, but most of the team contributed tries along the way, most notably no. 8 Marco Griebenauw and scrumhalf Carl Gordon Hein with nine apiece.
Griebenauw, centre Chadd Fortuin, lock Ricus Faul and reserve forward Johandré Brand were all selected for the Academy Week side.
Montagu (10-1-4) maintained their usual high standards, only tasting defeat at the hands of Augsburg Gym (7-18), Hugenote (17-22), Overberg (7-13) and Charlie Hofmeyr (12-17), while the interschools finale against Bredasdorp ended in a 9-9 stalemate.
The pride of Ceres, Charlie Hofmeyr, (9-5), tiny Bonnievale (10-1-5), for whom centre Steven Stallenberg dotted down 22 times and Hopefield (12-6) also deserve honourable mention, while Porterville had the distinction of fielding two centurions in lock Eric Buchman (103 points) and full-back Deodan Jacobs (twenty tries).
Don’t think that the rest of the province’s teams were in any way idle; no such word exists in the Boland. Let’s just say, with space a bit limited, that they experienced a little more of the rough than the smooth. That said, more might have been expected of Hermanus, who only returned an 11-9 win ratio despite having five provincial representatives.
In closing, allow me one observation.
For some inexplicable reason, even now the fortunes of Boland Schools Rugby seem to be inextricably linked to those of three of their core coloured schools, namely Klein Nederburg, New Orleans and Schoonspruit. It’s been a while since these three institutions have been able to resume the almost continuous stream of quality players to which supporters had become accustomed.
The sooner they enjoy a return to prosperity, the better it will be for the country’s breadbasket.